Cursed June. Yesterday I had allergies, band practice, and an open mic, and I’ve learned some important lessons.
1) Band practice is very important, but I’m really having so much fun with the threesome right now, that all I can think ALL through band practice is “mmmm…. threesome”… which isn’t something that should slip out into the microphone, because everyone gets all weird and thinks I’m talking about sex.
2) Don’t take drugs from the drummer. I was under the influence of something vicious last night, in the form of an antihistimine. I was still sort of high when we got back to the house. I’m not sure if I played really, really fast, or if I was percieving the world as running very, verrry, slooooow.
3) A lesson that I really should’ve learned by now – never judge an open mic until you actually play it. Alfred had asked us to come out and play the Sly Fox Pub last night – normally this thing takes place outside on their massive deck, but last night it was drizzly and dribbly with occasional damp, so the whole thing was moved into this very tiny, very Annapolitan space underground, where it was hot, and muggy, and nasty, and moist.
There was us, the host, and two other performers, and Alfred had wandered off, and we were up next (old friend Leigh, from the Year of the Rabbit was one of the other actually play it. Alfred had asked us to come out and play the Sly Fox Pub last night – normally this thing takes place outside on their massive deck, but last night it was drizzly and dribbly with occassional damp, so the whole thing was moved into this very tiny, very Annapolitan space underground, where it was hot, and muggy, and nasty, and moist.
There was us, the host, and two other performers, and Alfred had wandered off, and we were up next (old friend Leigh, from the Year of the Rabbit was one of the other performers) and these two hippie-ish looking creatures have wandered it and are looking all around for someone – and they just looked too much like Alfredians to NOT be – so I started talking to them… one was this very cute percussionist, and the other started getting into the metaphysics of creativity. I apologized for my total inability to follow, and blamed it on Alfred’s antihistimines. We played fast and sweated profusely, and blew the room away, and the owner asked what we did with our Saturdays. Score for us.
Last night I dreamt confused dreams of Katie, my crush in high school. We were going to a concert and ran across one another. We were waiting to go in to the show in some sort of cafe or something – and I was nervous and stuttering, she was older and her glasses weren’t quite as attractive as they were years ago – but she was beautiful and fascinating and it hurt to wake up.
Dreams like that…
People confuse me – when someone does something that is completely out of character, and yet something you desperately want them to do, do you question it? Do you ask about it? Or do you fail to look the gifted equine beast in the mouth, and just sit back and enjoy it?
So in the cicada theme of seizing the day, I’ve resurrected an ancient idea of mine: to self-publish a chat-book of poetry. I’m finally getting to the point where I have more than ten (dare I say twenty) pieces that I might show people or read in public. I’ve had a cover design and a title floating around in my head for years, and I finally started laying it out a few days ago.
I’m also working on a slam piece about the cicadas based on some very interesting things I’ve found in my background research. For example:
1. There are several Greek accounts of a person named Eunomos (i.e. Mr. Goodtune), an accomplished cithara player and singer, who was performing in competition when one of his instrument strings snapped. He was miraculously assisted by a cicada, which perched on his instrument and substituted its voice for the missing fifth string, enabling him to win a prestigious victory.
2. Plato and Socrates talk about a traditional belief that cicadas were once, long ago, human beings. Once music was introduced to human experience, though, these men became so enthralled with the works of the Muses that they devoted themselves entirely to music and forgot to eat or drink. Their bodies wasted away. The Muses, to reward them for their devotion, transformed them into cicadas and charged them with reporting on how other humans honored the Muses.
And there’s tons of other neat little tidbits. These hibernating insects go as far back as the Trojan War era! There are sculptures of them in tombs since their strange life-cycle suggested a ressurection … or some kind of immortality.
With my new-found knowledge about their lives – the longest of any insect, but lived completely underground save a month – I am watching them slowly die off. They twitch on the pavement everywhere. It’s weirdly sad. The world around the physical therapist’s office is a small ignored graveyard. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. A man comes out with a trashcan and a broom and sweeps at the concrete. And I can’t help but flinch every time I hear one of those dull little thuds on the windshield of the car I’m in.
Entire lives are being lived out while we wonder about futures impossibly distant for almost any other creature on Earth to even dream of. I put one of their wings in my wallet … it reminds me of very fine gold leaf.
Sigh. They will probably be gone by the time we return from this three-week road trip. I wonder if any of the seven states we’re headed through will be having them during our trip. I found a website where you can get state-specific brood X cicada t-shirts, and the list was longer than I’d thought, so it’s possible.
I wonder if the quiet upon our return will shock us.
Walking into the Common Grounds Coffee and Tea House of Arlington, Virginia – at first glance it’s kind of comical. Laptops have sprung at every table like mushrooms, and the outdoor sunshine is almost drown out by the blue-white computer LCD glow. Even upstairs, where the doors haven’t officially opened yet, there are already three machines churning out their silicon essence.
Most of the time, I feel pretty confident when it comes to the size of my laptop. My screen’s pretty big, and even when I see something that’s obviously got a couple of inches on me, I can walk tall with the confidence that mine works harder. But there’s this Dell in the corner, built on the scale of James’ machine back in Catonsville… big and blocky – and it looks too sleek to be an average performer. I’m feeling a bit of anxiousness, a little bit of Dell envy. My Alienware is worrying that it might not compete with the creature in the corner.
Jake starts up, yellow guitar and deep voice that begins to remind me more and more of Will Schaff’s old Noel the Coward voice – and it looks like it’s going to be a rough night. I don’t see anyone we know, and the night’s “filling in” with about ten people here to see Jake.
I started out the night kind of annoyed, since we couldn’t find any of our posters up (we eventually found one – not on the front door or on the bulletin board, but in a darkened stairwell) – not that I’m a great believer in the draw power of posters… I think I’ve only had one person come up to me and say that they’d never heard of us, never heard us, but that they HAD to come because of the poster… I met Rowan Corbett because he “had to see music that sounded like what those posters look like”. But every bit helps.
And every little hurt… hurts.
Hehe – Jake has a song called “Take it Up the Road Again”. It’s probably only me who finds that amusing, isn’t it? I guess my head has been in this sort of mood – as I’m going through my skull, exploring my stage banter options, I keep coming back to the fact that there are two big reasons why people should buy our CD. Those two reasons are hairy and I’ll show them to people if they ask, but really, let’s just say I need new pants.
My Dad’s going to just shake his head with shame when he reads that.
And of course, whenever I get overconfident, the world cuts me down – but in the same fashion, whenever I’m worried about a show, it goes spectacularly. We got rave responses from all of Jake’s friends, as well as passerbys and the woman who does booking at Common Grounds. We made our quota, and surpassed, and Julia Rose showed up out of nowhere and complimented my eyes.
Life is, indeed… very good. Also, we’ve got the right car adapter for my laptop, and I can either write to you… or play Starcraft alllll the waaay home. Ah – Full moon and “For Whom the Bell Tolls” on the radio. I gotta kill. Sorry.
A FALLING STAR!!! Driving home, north on 95 – meteor streaking down, creating a path down the sky. WISH WISH WISH!!!
Well the rain’s finally letting up, which is good, because we’re only about two hours out from Pittsburgh, and we’re theoretically playing outside up there.
We’ll see, as the skies retain a sullen, grey look to them.
It was strange, getting THIS Saturn all loaded up. Heather’s had to revise her vision of how everything fits together in the car – mine’s a little bit wider, but things are in different places, and we’re travelling with more stuff than usual, as we’ll be camping in Paw Paw, West Virginia.
I’m writing emails and remembering sunrises of the past – flying North to Boston and watching the dawn over a cliff face of clouds – waking up to a spectacular morning in the mountains of Colorado – waiting for the sunrise over Baltimore rooftops, standing on tiptoes and hoping for a kiss from Audrey back at school – sneaking out of my parents’ house with a blanket and watching the sun come up with Whitney over the lawn of my old elementary school.
So much sunshine in my head. Absolutely none in the sky.
And the radio stations all pretty much suck.
Heather and I are dreaming up wish lists and movie parties… for the moment, this is what’s on the wish list:
In no particular order…
GPS laptop card
Epson 900 Colour Stylus ink jet cartridges
A big paper clip
A NEW CAR!!!
Strings (medium gauge acoustic)
Interesting video files on CD or DVD
Office supply gift certificates
Fingernails (nailene sportslength – NOT square tip or those weird claw things)
A GOOD street team
A new run of stickers
A new run of postcards
A new run of posters
Don’t know what we plan to do with that, I’m working on getting the “help” section of ilyaimy.com back up and running (wow – passing GORGEOUS cloud-crowned mountains right now – the rain’s cleared out just enough to see them – I want to take pictures – $1.89 GAS!!! – but we managed to pack the drum on top of my camera. Sigh) so we can get back to a more teched up version of begging.
Oh – and there’s mention of “my show” on the previous page, and I’m realizing that that is perhaps the first time I’ve really mentioned it ANYWHERE.
Well, I’m reawakening the whole art side of my world, and with that comes gallery shows. So yesterday was spent framing and reframing and packaging about 30 pieces for a show in Baltimore. More information on that as it becomes available.
So, normally, in Pittsburgh, we’d be staying with our friend Sarah at her apartment, but circumstances have lead us to staying with Sarah at her parents, and we were really worried about that at first. But the parents, though perhaps wary at first, seem to have accepted us just fine. And frankly, we were at home as soon as Sarah’s mom came running at us screaming “OH MY GOD it’s ILYAIMY!!!!” Enthusiasm coupled with correct pronunciation and I’m happy.
Yesterday’s drive terminated in a frantic hunt for parking, and the jostling jolting of curb hugging pressure that comes with parallel parking. I’m really bad at it, and Heather hasn’t healed well enough to really parallel park that easily in my Saturn, which doesn’t have power steering.
People who’ve never driven a car without power steering, can NOT really appreciate this.
The Penn Ave Festival (and I KNOW I’m calling it something slightly wrong, I’m sure Heather will correct me) was not a bust, but only by a hair and three dollars. The grey drizzle wasn’t heavy, but it WAS persistant – we ALMOST had a stage when another performer was late, and we ALMOST had a tarp when another performer ended early, but most of our performance was spent with a watchful eye on the sky, peeking out from under an entrance ledge – praying that a downpour wouldn’t come out of nowhere and wash us all away.
Our audience consisted of passerby’s who had that look in their eye of “going someplace” – and children with balloons who had nowhere else to go – they enjoyed us a LOT, much mirth and dancing and we WERE the centre of the party, but… it was cold and it was wet and we were damp and we were brief. Soon, we took a detour into a local pet store (CAUSE WE LIKE PETS!!!) and headed over to a bus station to pick up Sarah.
And through a circuitous route, that leads us back to the third floor of Sarah’s parents’ house, with Skitz the kitten in tow. Her parents’ have volunteered to finally take the tiny beast to the vet (her breathing sounds worse than it ever has), and though I’m grateful for that, I found myself waking up in the middle of the night, listening for the tiny creature’s tiny noises, and was kind of panicked this morning, when I couldn’t hear her at all.
Frantic and silent searching – Heather and I have NOT slept much recently, and Friday was completely exhauting, leaving us without much in the way of reserves. Sarah and Heather are still unconscious, and I didn’t want to bother them, hunting around for the kitten, but – with how attached Heather has become to Skitz, the idea of her choking to death over night… Heather would be mortified to have this vital, curious creature replaced with a limp sack of fur. It would be worse than the crash.
So, waking up and not hearing Skitz made me kind of fearful. I found her eventually, sleeping peacefully in the crook of Sarah’s knee, but she sounds TERRIBLE. Hopping around, she is snortling and sniffing and sneezing (not too unlike myself at the moment, actually – I always react poorly to Sarah’s incense) and as usual, trying to type on the keyboard.
Here, let’s see if she’ll have something to say…. nope nothing right now, she’s gone into the bathroom with Sarah.
It’s unfortunate. There’s a lot more I have to say… but some of it – well, I DO censor myself on occassion. A lot of occassions. I’m trying to keep my mouth shut a LOT these days. A lot of things I really should not have an opinion on.
Yesterday I visited my first American bus station, and though I’d never been to one before … it was almost like I had. So much of it was this perfect visual cliche of 1950s linoleum, silver-grouted floors of old elementary schools, mass-produced industrial office furniture, the bland greens and the utilitarian fonts all under the same dull flourescent cast, the lists of destinations, the grey timeless uniforms of the aging Black bus drivers. It was …. what my brain told me before I even walked inside ….. EXACTLY what “bus station” should look like.
In fact, it looked SO much like what I thought it should, that it almost had the effect of looking like a movie set … the way, as Terry Pratchett says, things MADE to look like something often have the effect of looking MORE accurately like that something than the original. But this … this was so real it was almost fake.
And there was even a young couple embracing tearfully. The long-haired man looked well-traveled, wearing a worn leather jacket, black jeans, black boots and a stuffed backpack that looked too heavy for his thin frame and included a sleeping bag on the bottom and a silver liquor flask in a net pocket. The young woman had no backpack, and it was obvious whom was leaving whom. Both of their faces and eyes were flushed red and damp, and as the line to the buses moved forward, they would break from time to time and then hold onto each other again, and as she buried her face in his neck, I could only see his face and the way he held onto her hair, and I knew what her face must look like buried, damp in the shoulder of his leather jacket and the way her warm breath and her hot, salty tears must be making the air in that space between them so humid and thick.
And in that moment, I snapped a quiet, flashless picture.
And I’m not sure why I did it.
There were a lot of thoughts in my head. I was thinking that it was this movie moment in real life. I was thinking what a shame it was that at those moments in our lives, someone is not standing there with a camera … with something … preserving our pain, lending those moments the archival importance they deserve. Or the way those moments take forever to get through while they are happening, and then seem to fly from our memory so fast we can hardly believe it. Fuck graduations and proms …
where are the pictures from the REAL important moments in our lives, not just the socially presribed ones.
I watched him hold her hand as he stepped out the door to the waiting buses, only letting go at the last possible moment, when their outstretched arms had exhausted all their length and their fingerprints couldn’t leap the gap between them any more.
And with all these thoughts in my head, I almost wanted to walk up to her and tell her I had seen it. I had seen that moment and it had happened, and the moment itself was truly as sad as she looked and as she felt it to be. And then I would show her the little digital frame as some kind of proof of that. And then she could look at herself from the outside. She could see what I had seen. How I had seen her. That someone besides her and her departing lover had seen it, would remember it. That in this place of so many such departures, this one was somehow important.
I did not do this. I figured she might think I was crazy, or worse yet, that it was completely insensitive and innappropriate and she might be offended. Was I, in fact, raping their moment or actually cheapening it by making it fake to make it real; Making it two-dimensional, making it digital, making it something I could carry in my pocket, making it something I could process? I didn’t want the picture for anything. I will not print it or publish it and had no such intention at the moment I took it. I just … I had to take it. I couldn’t let it just go by. Letting it just go by, in a way, seemed more like cheapening the moment when I had the unique ability to care, and to capture it.
So it’s funny how many of those moments, those frozen images have been burned into our retinas by a movie or television screen before we even actually see them for the first time in real life: the departure at the bus station, the way an old school building looks and the way that architecture and decor changes us and our behavior as we take our cues from it. These images are so archetypal that even children understand what to do with them in the case of our open guitar case as we were busking on the street at the Penn Avenue Community Festival yesterday. We made three crumpled dollar bills in tips, each one of them bestowed to us by a passing child. They didn’t know why they were giving it to us or what we would do with the money, but they saw an open guitar case next to two people playing instruments, and balloon-hatted little girls and boys – who could not have been more than eight years old – pulled dollars from their pockets and placed them inside.
I don’t know whether to be happy or to be sad. I don’t know whether I should be thankful that, in this world where understanding and communication are often the most difficult things to come by, that we have these shared experiences and these archetypal moments to unite us or to help us take in the world. A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism teacher of mine told us that a sure-fire way to write a good feature piece was to start with a cliche and work our way from there. That the stories we connect with the most and the best are ones that start from a place of common understanding or experience … those movie-plot-script-perfect moments that fall into catch-phrases like: “Man v. Man. Man v. Self. Man v. Society. Man v. God,” or “Underdog Wins!” and “Boy Rescues Cat Out of Tree.”
Are we all just filling the same character roles, rotating one over for each different situation in our lives, playing the same scenes with different people or as a different person in the same scene in a history of repetitions? And do our scenes have to be documented on celluloid to be validated, or important or REALLY REALLY REAL?
And if all this is true, does that mean we are boring, unoriginal, and not striving as we should to create our own experiences …
Or does it mean that, at the heart of this often-isolating life, we all have so much more in common than we ever think? That the cliches that surround living, dying, loving, losing are all there for a reason. Are even maybe a comfort ….
Unrelated. Here’s an alligator. Alllll eeee gaaaay tor.
At around 1.30am last night, Heather and I turned in on the third floor of a rickety, disused, Pittsburgh townhouse. There are two tiny single beds and an oscillating fan that moves just enough air to make me jealous of Heather’s skin when it turns it’s attention from me to her. The room is orange.
I didn’t realize that last part at the time, actually – we turned in exhausted last night – but this morning, I slowly come-to to birds and orange.
No, last night, I was just aware of weird architecture and a LOT of stairs. We’d worn ourselves thin with one of the best days anyone has ever had.
A fantastic Tuesday.
Yesterday morning, we woke up in a very different third story room: Sarah’s little apartment, in contrast to the rest of her parents’ house, is scattered with posters and paper and clothes and carpet and one kitten filled with enough frenzy that it feels like it’s scattered with Skitz, too.
We slowly roused ourselves and took a Day. A day for ourselves.
We had been seeing signs around town for the Phipp’s Conservatory, and specifically, their butterfly house. I’d never heard of a butterfly house before, and Heather was all excited, so we decided that that was where we’d start. We drove through the (almost) summer air, through a golf course (posted: “Golf Course Drive at Your Own Risk”) and down into the myriad parks that congregate on this side of Pittsburgh, hunting for parking.
Tuesday. Go see Phipp’s Conservatory on a Tuesday. The parking is easy, and the crowds are non-existant. We got to wander the gardens and greenhouses almost completely alone. We caught glimpses of two or three other couples, three or four employees – fleeting catches of company through the leaves and through the paths of the place, the only place where it was even remotely populated was the Butterfly House itself, and even then, it never went beyond about five other souls in the place…
Well, that’s assuming that the butterflies don’t have souls. I hope not, in a way – apparently their Lifespan is perhaps a week for most, and even though they hatch about 330 every Tuesday, they average just over 300 butterflies in the place on any given day. Their little brochure talks about how at the end of the exhibit, they keep the temperature and humidity set for the butterflies until the last one dies – and Heather turns to me and asks “Can you imagine being the last butterfly?” A question that hurts my heart.
It fills me with loneliness, and fills my skull with morbid images of the people on butterfly body patrol, scooping them up with little shovels, having fifty little butterfly funerals a day, or perhaps they are cremated in butterfly bonfires? Or perhaps, and probably most likely, they are thrown in the trash, and in among leaf clippings and paper refuse, there are clumps of faded colour and twisted speckled bodies, wadded up and tossed away.
But the actual Butterfly House was like… like nothing I’d ever seen. It was like we’d wandered in through Jen’s backdoor and there might’ve been a Mystic behind a tree – it was THAT magical. Multicoloured wings fluttered everywhere, fighting the breezes and lighting on flowers and leaves and each other. They filled the air like a b-grade fantasy movie sans the glitter.
The only thing marring the mood was that the whole of the Phipp’s Conservatory contains little hidden speakers, and the butterflies, apparently, have a taste for smoooth jazz. Or perhaps it was HOT jazz. In any case, I think I would’ve preferred silence and the muffled sounds of city-Life and construction – I don’t think the butterflies would’ve minded.
I’m going through the photographs of the greenhouses now, some two hundred +, and I’m realizing that there’s just no way to capture the place without a more concerted effort than I made. The air in the butterfly house was ALIVE.
After we had glutted ourselves visually in the Conservatory, we ventured further into the city in search of food. What we found instead was even more visual feasting. Two cathedrals (one to learning, one to God – guess which one was beautiful on the inside, and which one was air-conditioned) and hundreds of people to watch – we finally got up-close and personal with Dippy and ended up lunching at a food chain, which was probably bad, but one of my favourites (Baja Fresh) which was good.
So, at this point, we were pretty exhausted and very filled with Mexican food. After some asking around, we found that there were no movie theatres within walking distance – and decided to return to Squirrel Hill to see if we could catch something in the dark, air-conditioned caverns of todays movie houses… Shrek II? Mr. Potter?
Whatever would get us out of the heat.
We ended up in a sparsely populated viewing of Harry Potter III, and I was amazed. Right from the opening graphics of the slowly flashing WB, everything was different, and I could feel those slow spinal tinglings as I realized I was watching something beautiful.
Everything that had been missing in the previous two movies: a sense of Magic, a sense of joy, beauty, discovery and awe – had found itself into this sequel, and I’m agonized to hear that this director has decided NOT to do the next one.
And we finished out the day at the Aspinwall Grille. I want to organize a trip with friends… NOW. It has to go up to Pittsburgh on a Tuesday, stay the night after hanging out at the Aspinwall Grille, and then come home. The BEST pick-up band I’ve ever seen plays here. Fantastically different from the last time we were there (only one horn player, different lead guy), last night was focused more on blues numbers and the amazing lead guitar of Craig. A tall black man built like a construction worker with a soulful Jimi Hendrix voice and a blazing guitar style to match. He even did the whole playing behind his head and with his teeth stuff.
My spine just spent the whole day yesterday in a state of wonder and tingle.
And I’m continued to be reminded of how much I Love my Life. Last night Aspinwall was just so spectacular, being reminded that I have sooo far to go with music – watching people who have been melding together musically for decades.
Tonight we headed back to Jozarts Studios. One of our favourite places. It’s so nice to go back there and have all of our positive memories reinforced. Everyone is just so amazingly friendly, and eager to hear from us and of us – Jozarts has these huge windows, and they were all open to the oncoming storm tonight, and the music from the open mic just echoes down the California streets. Apparently, while we were on stage, we were being blasted out powerfully enough to override a woman’s stereo as she was driving here… she turned down her radio and recognized our music and raced the rest of the way there.
I Love being Loved. So beautiful.
We’re crashing at Peter’s house – the host of the open mic – and Heather and he are trading stories of Peace Corps and midwest storms. He’s a professor at California University. He’s left his wife in Indiana, and she calls frequently, and he’s glad that she does… but he’s also glad to have his own place.
And I Love his voice. Love listening to them talk in the next room. It’s nice to be able to just sit here and type, interject when I please… Heather’s telling the story of “when I first heard my mother curse…” He reminds me of my mental image of Dr. Chandra, HAL’s creator in 2010…
The night was long and warm and moist and full of interruptions. The phone rings at 3.30am, and it’s a friend in need. It wakes us into an alien world full of half-constructed wooden skeletons and organic rustlings. We don’t become fully aware of how strange it all is until after the call is done. Heather talking, me listening…
We lapse into silence only to freesze at the sound of metal clankings in the kitchen. Barefoot and clad in boxers, we crept silently into the kitchen, Heather in a half crouch, slightly behind me. I’m expecting… raccoons? I don’t know what – armoured squirrels?
A tiny brown mouse darts from behind kitchen appliances and freezes, watching us. He has a long nose and quivering whiskers with which he makes a quick accounting of us before darting back beneath cutting boards and coffee makers.
Night slowly fades into dawn over the next couple of hours – too damp to sleep, too exhausted to remain conscious, we faded into morning in a daze, as someone slowly tuned the outdoor channel through different night rustlings to morning birds to strange clickings and whirrings and sleep.
I woke to Peter’s voice hours later, and we continue swapping stories until we are visited by a tiny rabbit (nothing but a kitten) on the porch, scratching at something, nibbling on something else. Good beesties in California.